Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Is Gaia a Superorganism? No, she is a holobiont!

A few days ago, I was discussing with a friend and he used the term "superorganism" for Gaia as the Earth Goddess. When I said that Gaia is not a superorganism but a holobiont, he asked me, "but what is a holobiont, exactly?" I thought about that for a while, and then I said, "a holobiont is a democracy, a superorganism is a dictatorship."If you have a friend who is a biologist, try to tell her that Gaia is a superorganism. Likely, she won't be happy and, even if she won't attack you physically, she will at least ask you, venomously, "And so, tell me, good sir, how could natural selection have generated this -- ahem-- 'Gaia' of yours? You tell me that there is only one Gaia on this planet and so, in order to evolve, did perhaps different planetary ecosystems in the galaxy competed with each other?" I am not inventing this, it is the scathing criticism of the Gaia theory that Richard Dawkins produced in his book, "The Extended Phenotype" (1982).Given a certain interpretation of Darwin's idea, Dawkins' position is logical and even unavoidable. There is just one problem: the common interpretation of Darwin's theory is wrong.Don't misunderstand me: Darwin was one of the greatest scientific geniuses in history. But we need to take into account that he was working on limited data and with limited tools. He himself could never decide exactly between two concepts that he used interchangeably: "natural selection" and "survival of the fittest." They are not the same thing, not [More]

Taking Utilitarianism Seriously

2020.06.25 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Christopher Woodard, Taking Utilitarianism Seriously, Oxford University Press, 2019, 244pp., $65.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780198732624. Reviewed by Paul Hurley, Claremont McKenna College Christopher Woodard sets himself a difficult task here. Utilitarian theories are a subset of consequentialist theories, but even many of Woodard's fellow consequentialists take themselves to have compelling reasons to reject certain commitments distinctive of utilitarian forms of consequentialism. They have outgrown utilitarianism, and have developed arguments for distinctively non-utilitarian forms of consequentialism that are grounded in deep features of prevailing accounts of attitudes and actions. If so many consequentialists no longer take utilitarianism to be a plausible form of consequentialism, and take themselves to have good reasons for focusing on other, less problematic forms, why should those of us who find consequentialism itself problematic take utilitarianism seriously? Woodard's strategy, against both his consequentialist and non-consequentialist critics, is to argue first... Read [More]

Is Gaia a Superorganism? No, she is something completely different

A few days ago, I was discussing with a friend and he used the term "superorganism" for Gaia as the Earth Goddess. When I said that Gaia is not a superorganism but a holobiont, he asked me, "but what is a holobiont, exactly?" I thought about that for a while, and then I said, "a holobiont is a democracy, a superorganism is a dictatorship."If you have a friend who is a biologist, try to tell her that Gaia is a superorganism. Likely, she won't be happy and, even if she won't attack you physically, she will at least ask you, venomously, "And so, tell me, good sir, how could natural selection have generated this -- ahem-- 'Gaia' of yours? You tell me that there is only one Gaia on this planet and so, in order to evolve, did perhaps different planetary ecosystems in the galaxy competed with each other?" I am not inventing this, it is the scathing criticism of the Gaia theory that Richard Dawkins produced in his book, "The Extended Phenotype" (1982).Given a certain interpretation of Darwin's idea, Dawkins' position is logical and even unavoidable. There is just one problem: the common interpretation of Darwin's theory is wrong.Don't misunderstand me: Darwin was one of the greatest scientific geniuses in history. But we need to take into account that he was working on limited data and with limited tools. He himself could never decide exactly between two concepts that he used interchangeably: "natural selection" and "survival of the fittest." They are not the same thing, not [More]

Gaia is with us. Onward, fellow holobionts!

A few days ago, I was discussing with a friend and he used the term "superorganism" for Gaia as the Earth Goddess. When I said that Gaia is not a superorganism but a holobiont, he asked me, "but what is a holobiont, exactly?" I thought about that for a while, and then I said, "a holobiont is a democracy, a superorganism is a dictatorship."If you have a friend who is a biologist, try to tell her that Gaia is a superorganism. Likely, she won't be happy and, even if she won't attack you physically, she will at least ask you, venomously, "And so, tell me, good sir, how could natural selection have generated this -- ahem-- 'Gaia' of yours? You tell me that there is only one Gaia on this planet and so, in order to evolve, did perhaps different planetary ecosystems in the galaxy competed with each other?" I am not inventing this, it is the scathing criticism of the Gaia theory that Richard Dawkins produced in his book, "The Extended Phenotype" (1982).Given a certain interpretation of Darwin's idea, Dawkins' position is logical and even unavoidable. There is just one problem: the current interpretation of Darwin's theory is wrong.Don't misunderstand me: Darwin was one of the greatest scientific geniuses in history. But we need to take into account that he was working on limited data and with limited tools. He himself could never decide exactly between two concepts that he used interchangeably: "natural selection" and "survival of the fittest." They are not the same thing, not [More]

Gaia is one of us. Onward, fellow holobionts!

A few days ago, I was discussing with a friend and he used the term "superorganism" for Gaia as the Earth Goddess. When I said that Gaia is not a superorganism but a holobiont, he asked me, "but what is a holobiont, exactly?" I thought about that for a while, and then I said, "a holobiont is a democracy, a superorganism is a dictatorship."If you have a friend who is a biologist, try to tell her that Gaia is a superorganism. Likely, she won't be happy and, even if she won't attack you physically, she will at least ask you - venomously enough - something like: "And so, tell me, good sir, how could natural selection have generated this -- ahem-- 'Gaia' of yours? You tell me that there is only one Gaia on this planet and so, in order to evolve, did perhaps different planetary ecosystems in the galaxy compete with each other?" I am not inventing this, it is the scathing criticism of the Gaia theory that Richard Dawkins produced in his book, "The Extended Phenotype" (1982).Given a certain interpretation of Darwin's idea, Dawkins' position is logical and even unavoidable. There is just one problem: the current interpretation of Darwin's theory is wrong.Don't misunderstand me: Darwin was one of the greatest scientific geniuses in history, but we need to take into account that he was working on limited data and with limited tools. He himself could never decide exactly between two concepts that he used interchangeably: "natural selection" and "survival of the fittest." They are not [More]

In Defense of Extended Conciliar Christology: A Philosophical Essay

2020.06.24 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Timothy Pawl, In Defense of Extended Conciliar Christology: A Philosophical Essay, Oxford University Press, 2019, 250pp., $90.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780198834144. Reviewed by Gaven Kerr, St Patrick's College, Maynooth The purpose of this book is to consider extensions to the conciliar Christology that Timothy Pawl defended in his previous book, In Defense of Conciliar Christology (OUP, 2016). Pawl sets out five extensions that he wishes to consider as contradictory or otherwise to conciliar Christology: the possibility of multiple incarnations, Christ's sojourn in hell, the freedom of Christ's will, Christ's impeccability, and the extent of Christ's human knowledge of things past, present, and future. In Chapter 1, Pawl lays out what he takes to be the distinctive claims of conciliar Christology. For him this is the view that in Christ there was: (i) one person, i.e., the Word, (ii) a divine nature, (iii) a human nature, which natures are (iv) united without confusion,... Read [More]

The Cartesian Semantics of the Port Royal Logic

2020.06.23 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews John N. Martin, The Cartesian Semantics of the Port Royal Logic, Routledge, 2020, 241pp., $140.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780815370468. Reviewed by Eric Stencil, Utah Valley University La Logique ou l'art de penser, or as it is more well-known, the Port Royal Logic (hereafter: Logic), is an extremely influential logic text written by Antoine Arnauld and Pierre Nicole.[1] The Logic, first published in 1662, was revised numerous times, with the fifth and final version appearing in 1683. Despite the text's significance and influence, and the existence of a first-rate English translation by Jill Vance Buroker, it has received relatively little attention in English-language scholarship.[2] In his welcome new monograph, John N. Martin helps fill this sizable gap in the literature and offers the first English-language book devoted to the Logic. Martin's book is "a study of... Read [More]

Technological Change and Human Obsolescence: An Axiological Analysis

I have a new paper coming out. This one is about how rapid changes in technology might induce human obsolescence. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I try to argue that, contrary to first impressions, it might be a good thing.Details, including links to the pre-print version, are below.Title: Technological Change and Human Obsolescence: an Axiological AnalysisJournal: Techné: Research in Philosophy and TechnologyLinks: Official; Philpapers; Researchgate; AcademiaAbstract: Can human life have value in a world in which humans are rendered obsolete by technological advances? This article answers this question by developing an extended analysis of the axiological impact of human obsolescence. In doing so, it makes four main arguments. First, it argues that human obsolescence is a complex phenomenon that can take on at least four distinct forms. Second, it argues that one of these forms of obsolescence (‘actual-general’ obsolescence) is not a coherent concept and hence not a plausible threat to human well-being. Third, it argues that existing fears of technologically-induced human obsolescence are less compelling than they first appear. Fourth, it argues that there are two reasons for embracing a world of widespread, technologically-induced human obsolescence.  #mc_embed_signup{background:#fff; clear:left; font:14px Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; } /* Add your own MailChimp form style overrides in your site stylesheet or in this style block. We recommend moving [More]